(AFP) Kitty Wells, the "Queen of Country Music" who broke down barriers in the 1950s to women in the genre, died on Monday at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, a source close to the family said. She was 92.
"She died in the loving arms of her family," said Jay McDonald, an associate at Junction Recording Studio, owned by Wells' grandson, told AFP by telephone, citing "complications from a stroke" as the cause of death.
Wells, born Ellen Muriel Deason, became the first female country artist with a number-one hit when she recorded "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" in 1952, when she was 33 and country music was entirely dominated by men.
The song made waves at the time. One radio network banned it for being "suggestive" with lyrics that challenged the notion that women should carry the blame for their wayward husbands.
Wells went on to rack up a total 35 Billboard Top Ten records. She also starred in her own television show in the late 1960s and toured widely for many years with her husband, fellow country star Johnnie Wright, who died in 2011.
The first female country recording artist to sell more than one million records, Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976 and honoured with a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 1991.
"Kitty Wells will always be greatest female country singer of all times," fellow country star Loretta Lynn said on her Twitter account (@The_LorettaLynn) in reaction to Wells' death. "She was my hero."